I had known the laboured boredom of jogging, I’d known from school both the despondency of failing to win a race, and the self-conscious pleasure with a smattering of guilt that came from success in competition. This memory exists before I had experienced the shame of being a person who believes they should run. I couldn’t articulate it at the time, but this was my earliest memory of running as a physical expression of freedom and joy.
When I was in my early twenties, I – in a relatively short period of time – built up the fitness to be able to run for half an hour. I remember thirteen minutes was my first goal. By the time I could make thirty minutes, I was covering five or six kilometres, and I had a feeling of pride and achievement. I wasn’t quite as thin as I wanted to be.
A year or two later, I was studying a part-time actor training course at the Victorian College of the Arts, and there was this movement exercise called “Running-Walking-Stillness”. It is as simple as the name implies, and the purpose was to capture the feeling of spontaneity... I suppose. The idea was that at any given time in ‘the space’, you would either be still, you’d be walking, or you’d be running. Apparently we didn’t get it, because we spent too much time being still. For homework, we had to go out and run – really get a real experience of running, not jogging or trotting, so a day or two later, I did just that.
But I already knew how to run.
I went down to the park, and there was a group of girls sitting down at the other side of the oval. I felt a little self-conscious, but was committed. I probably did a few jumps or stretches or something, and then I ran, I ran as fast as I possibly could, I pumped my arms, drove my feet into the ground, and felt like I was running pretty damn fast – but it was laboured. I came to a stop and one of the girls called out “are you an athlete?” I yelled “no, I’m studying acting,” and she called back “we're studying weed!”
A couple of years later: a friend of mine and her dog. Maybe a King Charles Spaniel, but I may be mixing my memories up here – I don't know breeds. We were at the leash-off dog park one day, the only time I’d been there, and it was teeming with dogs. I felt energetic and had wandered over to some playing equipment up the other end, and I dunno, was doing some chin-ups or something. Playing. Some friends and the dog came over and he was running around in circles. He looked like he wanted to run. So I thought, righto! Let’s run! and I figured I’d race him back to the other side of the park. I broke into a run, and he was trotting along beside me. Oh, it’s like that, is it? I’ll show you! I started to sprint, and I felt like I hadn’t run that fast in – well, forever. The dog was looking up at me as if to say come on! Let’s go faster! Faster! That’s right, I was at full sprint, he was a little way ahead of me, jogging along, looking backwards, and trying to be encouraging. His legs were like, eight inches long.
What could I do, but laugh?